The Pendergrass family, of Cassville, survived the trauma of having their mobile home overturned during the early morning tornado that struck the area on Feb. 29. Kevin and Crystal Pendergrass and their sons, Dakota and Dalton, escaped with minor cuts and scrapes.
Dakota Pendergrass, 5, found his prized possession -- his bike -- among the rubble that was left of his home and yard. It had been irreparably damaged in the storm.
"When we got here, Dakota was pushing his bike, and it was obvious he was not going to be able to ride it any more," said Lt. Danny Boyd, of the Cassville Police Department.
That's where two members of the Cassville Police Department stepped up to the plate.
The new bike is slightly larger than the one Dakota had previously owned, allowing him the opportunity to ride it much longer than he would have been able to with his smaller one.
After taking the unclaimed bike to Hutchen's Construction to have the tires aired up, Boyd and Patrolman Jason Manning found there was another problem.
"We went to Walmart to buy a couple of tire tubes," Boyd said. "When they heard what we were doing, they just donated them to us."
Once the bike was ready to ride, the two officers presented it to Dakota, who was thrilled with the gift. He immediately hopped on his new bike and began peddling down the road, which was still covered with debris from the tornado's destructive swath through the neighborhood.
"I don't want to relive it ever again," said Crystal, "but I do, every night when I close my eyes.
"If not for two trees in our yard, I think the tornado would have sucked the trailer up and we'd all be dead now," she said. "God was watching over us that night."
For now, Crystal, Kevin and their children are staying with other family members while they clear the debris from their property and try to start anew.
With a persevering Ozarkian spirit, the family plans to stay in the place they called home.
"We plan to come back and build right here," Crystal said. "We own this property. But I can't live in a trailer any more. I just can't."
Healing will come with time, although some of the scars will remain -- on the landscape and in the souls of those who triumphed over Mother Nature's wrath.
"This is the least we could do after all they went through," Boyd said. "We both have kids, and we know how it would be if [this had happened to] one of ours."
"We just want to thank the community," Crystal said, "for all of their thoughts and prayers and help."